Back in March, I weighed in on the Rob Bell hubbub that was then storming the Christian blogosphere. Half a year late to the party, commenter “everdox” has this to say:
Sadly Rob Bell has made an attempt to contend with the will of God, and recreate in his own mind, the will of man and not God. We do not understand God, therefore all questions of sorts such as: would an all loving God create an eternal hell? Are off limits.
[snip – proof-texts]
Furthermore, read the book of Jude. I pray that God will lead you to a clear understanding of what is happening. Universalism can disguise itself as love all it wants, but is quite possibly the most cunning system satan himself has ever cooked up. Universalism opens the door to living life outside of the ten commandments amongst everything else Jesus talked about, because of the simple fact that we will all be saved.
This is clearly not the case.
[half a dozen more proof-texts]
My go-to blogger on this topic, Mr John Shore, rebuts these arguments more eloquently than I ever could:
(please read this one, everdox) Is God's Justice Different Than Ours? Hell, No.
So I'm not going to argue from logic and rhetoric and theology why I think everdox is wrong (though I will say, their first paragraph is awfully sad. Questions are off limits? What a tragically, crushingly restrictive response to human inquiry and intellectual activity. Spinoza's doing somersaults in his grave). I'm just going to explain why I, personally, psychologically, cannot possibly believe in hell (hell in the fire-and-brimstone-eternal-torment sense, that is, not the hell of self-awareness). It boils down to this:
Either I'm going to hell, or nobody is.
I've been living inside this head for twenty-wev years. I know exactly how terrible of a person I am. I know that I am totally self-obsessed, that I'm a hypocrite whose actions aren't in line with my beliefs, that I kind of have a soft spot for “Party in the USA”. If the universe is a merit-based operation, then I'ma burn, baby, burn.
“Exactly,” says the Christian right. “You deserve to burn, but because of God's grace you won't.” (Well, they say that until they learn that I'm an unrepentant gay-sex-haver, but since I am now happily and maybe permanently single we can get past that.)
“That's fine,” I say. “We're on the same page re: grace. I suck, but God's merciful. Fantastic. Here's my problem: why me? If God picks and chooses who gets saved, why the hell would God pick a douchebag like me? Why does God's grace apply to me but not to my best non-Christian friend, who is a demonstrably superior human to me in every measurable way?”
“Um,” says the Christian right. “Mysterious ways... beyond our comprehension... faith not works... can we talk some more about how gay sex is totally icky?”
You see, I can accept the part where all people miss the mark. (That's what sin, hamartia, actually is – missing the mark, falling short, failing to measure up.) I can accept the part where God, in mercy and grace, forgives us even though we don't deserve it. I cannot accept the part where God arbitrarily dispenses that mercy and grace according to whim, saving some of the mark-missers and condemning others just for the lulz. God is vast, ineffable, beyond human comprehension; but that doesn't mean that God is a capricious tyrant whose justice is diametrically opposed to human logic and ethics.
I mean, have you ever heard anyone argue for the existence of hell who thought they were going there? People who want hell to exist want it for other people. That right there should be ringing all your alarm bells. The traditional doctrine of hell is self-righteousness crystallized.
It must be nice to have the self-confidence to say things like, “Hell exists but I'm not going there.” Unfortunately I carry with me a constant awareness of my own crapness, so for me it's more like, “If hell exists I am definitely going there.” Since the salvific action of Jesus Christ assures me that I am not going there, hell ipso facto does not exist. Quod erat demonstrandum, verbum sapienti sat est, nunc est bibendum.